Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Institutional Review Bourgeoisie, we dance again.

I'm back from Mexico, and I am possessed to return. No, really. I'm going back whether I want to or not (which, just for clarification, I do!). I'm undergoing the arduous process of analyzing my data from my study this summer and trying to compile some kind of comprehensible something that ends with some kind of tangible result. Pretty vague, huh? I blame my ambiguity on field studies.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog is to keep things "fresh" and "in the forefront" of my mind. My post-field writing professor is always telling me this, so why not give the advice of the university professor a try. Maybe he knows what he's talking about, eh? Consequently, this blog will serve as a pre-field journal as I dig deeper into the issues that interest me and strive to understand the gap in the literature I am delving into.

Right about now, you're asking, 'Natalie, just what IS it that you will be studying this time?' and I am so glad you asked. Actually, that's a lie. I'm not glad you asked. I don't know what I'm doing yet. I do however know what I like, so we'll start there (story of my life. No really.)

As I saw in my ranchos this summer, there were A LOT of migrant workers. I would have seen even more... if they weren't currently migrating. One former student found that 75% of the men from the area have migrated to the US at least once. I think migration is fascinating. I think the idea of uprooting oneself from everything they know and moving into a culture completely different from their own is an overwhelming task. Yet, these men do it as a means of income. Why? Why not depend on the government for money (more than some already do), or work in your brother's peanut fields, or sell at the market in the city, or go to school, or be a stay at home dad? I know that some of these questions would seem comical or even sarcastic if I were to ask them, but that doesn't make me any less interested in what their reasons and responses would be. Why Do You Migrate? There's opción número uno.

While we are still on the topic of migration, let's talk about the other idea I have a-brewin'. What about the ones who stay behind? What about the wives and children who depend on money from their spouse and father? The pregnant women who give birth and begin raising a child without the father? The women and oldest sons who must try to fill the hole that the breadwinner leaves behind? How do they adapt? Do they think it's worth the cost? I cannot imagine my mom sending my father off for an undetermined number of years and raising four kids alone. Then again, the people in these communities aren't as alone, maybe, as a woman could be in the United States. Extended families often live in the same village. Grandparents and aunts and uncles help look after their grandchildren, nieces, and nephews on a daily basis. Perhaps extended families step in to fill this gap when the man leaves. That would be interesting to ask about.

Lastly, I am greatly interested in literacy issues. Many of the older generations do not know how to read. Many mothers cannot help their children with their homework. My favorite student was very bright and I was surprised to find out that she was held back a year because of the difficulties she faced in learning to read. Her mother didn't know how to read. This is one example of how women's illiteracy issues transcend generations. I got to wondering if there were other ways that illiteracy among women affected younger generations. I began to wonder in what other ways illiteracy affected the women of these rural villages. I have NO idea.

And so, the field studies process begins yet again, and I find myself gearing up for another romp with the IRB (Institutional Review Board, or as I like to call it, the Institutional Review Bourgeoisie), an institution that exists to protect the human subjects I will be working with in my research. As I gear up to embark on another epic journey to rural Guanajuato, I would like to invite anyone who takes an interest in ethnographic and qualitative research, Mexico, migration studies, gender inequality, education, development, or me to share your thoughts and opinions as I blog away this school year (articles that you find would also be welcome and encouraged, and I can post them under my links).

¡Viva México! ¡Viva la igualdad! ¡Viva la gente que es diferente!